On Friday the Saskatchewan NDP Immigration Critic called on both the federal and provincial governments to be prepared to welcome Afghanistan refugees. She also thinks the province has room to welcome more people.
“(I am) also calling on the province and the federal government to work together to ensure that we here in Saskatchewan, a small province, a province that needs people to grow and to succeed, accepts not just the bare minimum of people, but the most people we can, far and above our per capita allotment,” MLA Aleana Young said Friday.
Regina resident Zohra Bahrami was also at Friday’s press conference and called the situation complicated for all parties involved.
Bahrami said the focus has been on “when things should have been done instead of what should be done next.”
“In this moment we don’t care what happened in the past, we can’t change that, but what we can do is focus on the future, and we’re more interested in knowing is what is the Government of Canada going to do to save our families and save the Afghan people who want to be saved,” Bahrami told reporters.
Bahrami has immediate family living in hiding in Afghanistan. She said communication with them remains short, only focused on confirming that they are safe.
“The situation is rapidly changing in Afghanistan and it’s getting worse and worse every day and we can’t just sit around and wait for things to get better in order to save those people,” Bahrami added.
Bahrami said it has been frustrating not being able to provide an update from the federal government to her family.
Bahrami agrees with Young that Canada should accept more refugees.
Young said she wrote to Saskatchewan Minister for Immigration Jeremy Harrison on Aug. 13 with her concerns and suggestions, but has yet to get a response.
“I wrote in earnest, I was very polite, because this isn’t about me, this isn’t about politics. This is about helping people, whose families are in desperate need, and helping people who are sad and frustrated and devastated and don’t even have an update to give to their families on the ground,” Young said.
Young said she has also reached out to federal Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino about Saskatchewan accepting more refugees.
She said Saskatchewan has the space and opportunity to welcome more people in.
“I don’t know why in a province whose motto is ‘from many peoples strength’ we would gate keep,” Young stated.
In an emailed statement to Global News, the provincial government said they will continue to work with federal officials on settling Afghan refugees.
“Decisions on the numbers of refugees who will be resettled to Canada and which communities they will be resettled to are determined by the federal government, with consideration for where they may have family connections in Canada and service provider capacity,” the statement read.
The government added so far no Afghan refugees have arrived in Saskatchewan to date.
“Refugees will be arriving but the number is not known as of yet. The Government of Canada is resettling these refugees across Canada as quickly as they can after an initial quarantine period.”
As for working on supports for refugees, the government said there is a provincial network of services ready to provide support for refugees that while land in Saskatchewan.
“In Saskatchewan, there are service providers in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert who are designated by the federal government to receive government-assisted refugees (GARs). GARs receive support under the federal Refugee Assistance Program (RAP) for their first year in Canada, which includes income and housing. As permanent residents, they will also have access to provincial supports and services.”
The federal department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada reported that they have evacuated over 3,700 people so far, though that figure may include Canadians. They have committed to resettling 20,000 refugees.